Justice Department indicts 11 anti-choice activists for 2021 'criminal blockade' on abortion clinic

Justice Department indicts 11 anti-choice activists for 2021 'criminal blockade' on abortion clinic
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In Mount Juliet, Tennessee in March 2021 — more than 15 months before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended abortion as a national right — a group of anti-abortion activists allegedly joined forces to prevent access to a family planning clinic. And on Wednesday, October 5, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that 11 of them had been indicted on federal charges for violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act of 1994.

DOJ alleges that some of the defendants “engaged in a conspiracy to prevent the clinic from providing, and patients from receiving, reproductive health services.” And some defendants, “as part of the conspiracy…. traveled to Tennessee from other states to participate in a clinic blockade,” according to DOJ.

“If convicted of the offenses, the seven conspiracy defendants each face up to a maximum of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines of up to $350,000,” DOJ announced. “The remaining five defendants face a year in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of up to $10,000.”

READ MORE: 'A massive miscalculation': Lindsey Graham's proposed abortion ban ignites the political spectrum

The 11 defendants are Chester Gallagher, Calvin Zastrow, Coleman Boyd, Heather Idoni, Paul Vaughn, Caroline Davis, Eva Zastrow, Dennis Green, Eva Edl, Paul Place and James Zastrow.

“The indictment further alleges that on March 5, 2021, the 11 individuals, aided and abetted by one another, used force and physical obstruction to injure, intimidate and interfere with employees of the clinic and a patient who was seeking reproductive health services,” DOJ announced. “The indictment also alleges that all 11 defendants violated the FACE Act by using physical obstruction to intimidate and interfere with the clinic’s employees and a patient, because the clinic was providing, and the patient sought reproductive health services. All defendants will have appearances scheduled in U.S. District Court in Nashville at a later date.”

DOJ alleges that “on March 4, 2021, Boyd and Gallagher advertised the blockade of the Carafem Health Center Clinic, in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, which was planned for the following day.”

“In his social media post,” DOJ alleged, “Gallagher referred to the blockade as a ‘rescue.’ Boyd also began a Facebook livestream broadcast of the clinic blockade at 7:45 a.m. on March 5, 2021. This livestream broadcast was titled, in part, ‘Mount Juliet, Tennessee, Rescue March 5, 2021,’ and livestreamed the blockade event as his coconspirators and others blocked the clinic’s entry doors and prevented a patient and an employee from entering. The livestream also broadcast members of the group attempting to engage a patient and her companion as Boyd told his livestream audience that the patient was a ‘mom coming to kill her baby.’”

READ MORE: How Roe's reversal has supercharged abortion rights activists: conservative

The Face Act was passed by Congress in response to acts of aggression — including, in some cases, violent attacks — against family planning clinics by far-right anti-abortion activists. President Bill Clinton signed it into law in May 1994.

READ MORE: Clarence Thomas calls on court to undo rulings on same-sex relationships and contraception: 'We have a duty to correct the error'

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